Things are heating up in the flexible display sector. This Fox News story says that E Link Corp., which has its roots at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has seen an increase in interest during the past year. Nine companies, says E-Link's president, have launched products during the past year. His company is producing millions of "parts" -- the term isn't clarified -- instead of the thousand in the span of nine months.
The intriguing idea of flexible displays has been kicking around for a while. The folks at Blumsday recently discussed it in the context of strategies aimed at saving the newspaper industry. The discussion -- which links to some pretty neat photos -- describes flexible displays as "place-mat-like video monitors" capable of being rolled up and carried under a person's arm. They can connect wirelessly and access data just like any other wireless device.
This small item in DigiTimes says that a Taiwanese firm, Prime View International, is slated to offer flexible electronic paper during the middle of the year, and will demonstrate the products at the Society for Information Display conference May 20-25 in Long Beach, Calif. The story says the company is a supplier to Sony and eRead, a company based in China.
The Fox article says the industry is still dealing with the seemingly significant issues of supporting video and color presentation. Anyone paying attention to technology during the past decade probably will bet that those issues will be addressed assiduously -- and likely resolved -- if the key obstacle is chip integration and if other market and manufacturing planets align.
These are interesting developments and certainly suggest that the market is gathering momentum. We'll be more impressed, however, when we see a lot of deal announcements. There are dozens of examples of ideas that sounded great but that didn't pan out. In some cases, the technology proved not be cost-effective. In others, there was an incumbent technology that kept the new idea from taking root. The bottom line is that the jury still is out on the technology.
The mobile computing industry probably is watching this news with a good deal of interest and not a little concern. Though "display" -- not "computer" -- is part of the category's name, it seems clear that these devices could supersede a good deal of the functionality provided by ultramobile PCs, tablet computers and even laptops. Perhaps in the future, circuitry will be miniaturized enough to provide voice functionality to the displays, thereby further complicating the mobile landscape.